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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rapid visualization at high resolution of pathogens by atomic force microscopy: Structural studies of herpes simplex virus-1

  • Author(s): Plomp, M
  • Rice, MK
  • Wagner, EK
  • McPherson, A
  • Malkin, AJ
  • et al.

A relatively crude preparation of herpes simplex virus was rapidly visualized by atomic force microscopy after exposure to conditions that produced gradual degradation of the virions. Images were obtained of 1) the intact, enveloped virus; 2) the underlying capsid with associated tegument proteins along with fragments of the membrane; 3) the capsomeres composing the capsid and their surface arrangement; 4) damaged and partially degraded capsids with missing capsomeres; and 5) the DNA extruded from damaged virions. These images provide a unique perspective on the structures of individual virus particles. Atomic force microscopy can thus be used as a diagnostic tool to provide a rapid way to obtain high-resolution images of human pathogens from crude preparations. It is a useful technique that complements X-ray-based structure determination, cryo-electron microscopy techniques, and optical microscopies in the field of molecular pathogenesis.

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